BERLIN (Reuters) – German politicians have called on British Prime Minister David Cameron to do more in tackling the use of offshore companies set up in British overseas territories to evade taxes.
“We’ll only be convincing on the international stage if we are, first of all, fully compliant in the EU and for me, that includes Britain exerting influence over its overseas territories – we need to make that clear to the Brits in upcoming talks,” senior conservative politician Ralph Brinkhaus told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
Carsten Schneider, a budget expert for Germany’s Social Democrats, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition, also said the British prime minister needed to take action in the light of last week’s revelations from the “Panama Papers”.
Media that have seen the files leaked from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca say more than half of the 200,000 offshore companies set up by the firm were registered in the British Virgin Islands, where details of ownership do not have to be filed with authorities. The law firm denies any wrongdoing.
“If David Cameron still wants to be taken seriously personally and politically in the fight against tax fraud and tax evasion, Britain needs to close the loopholes in its own country immediately,” Schneider told Welt am Sonntag.
Earlier on Sunday, Cameron announced he had set up a national task force led by its tax authority and the National Crime Agency to search through the Panama Papers.
Cameron, who has sought to take the lead internationally in tackling tax avoidance and evasion since Britain hosted a G8 summit in 2013, faced calls from political opponents for his resignation last week after revealing he once had a stake in his late father’s own offshore investment trust and profited from it.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, said Britain had a “huge responsibility” as many tax havens are British overseas territories, like the British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands, or Crown Dependencies, such as Jersey and the Isle of Man.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Greg Mahlich)